Despite Greek shelter, Yazidis struggle to integrate

Yazidi refugees have a discussion as they sit outside at the Serres refugee camp, northern Greece, on November 24, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 02 December 2017
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Despite Greek shelter, Yazidis struggle to integrate

SERRES, Greece: Although Ibrahim Hondeta’s Yazidi family reached Greece a year ago after fleeing persecution, they still fear being the target of violence and are fighting to keep their community together.
Having run the gauntlet of invasion, combat, killings and enslavement by Daesh terrorists in Iraq, the members of this religious minority have found temporary shelter in the largely agricultural region of Serres in northern Greece.
The camp they have been allocated to is one of the best in the country — their prefabricated homes have air conditioning and solar panels to heat water. The grounds are clean and there is a playground for the children.
Many hope to be reunited with other Yazidis stranded in Greece, but with the country struggling to manage more than 50,000 refugees and migrants stranded on its territory, that is not always an option.
“Creating a camp just for Yazidis is neither possible nor viable,” said a Greek official with knowledge of refugee management efforts.
The camp can normally accommodate 700 people. At the moment there are some 350 Yazidis, most of them women and children, waiting for EU-sponsored relocation to other parts of Europe.
Greece’s policy is to move eligible refugees from overcrowded island camps — where they undergo identity checks upon arrival from Turkey — to the mainland, where more comfortable accommodation is available in better camps, UN-funded flats and hotels.
But the Yazidis, who have already faced an ordeal keeping their dwindling community together thus far, oppose this policy.
This is partly down to fear of other communities. They had a scare earlier this year, when a Yazidi celebration in Kilkis, another part of northern Greece, descended into violence between Arabs and Kurds.
“(The Arabs) threatened to kill us. They hunted us down with knives and clubs. We had to hide in a forest to save our lives,” says 55-year-old Hondeta, sitting on a bench outside the camp.
“After that, we asked to be given a safe place for our families and we ended up here together.”
Since that time, they have frustrated the Greek government’s attempts to bring in non-Yazidis.
They recently blocked the transfer of 60 Congolese and Senegalese mothers and their children to the Serres camp, the government official said.
All of them were Catholic.
In Athens, a migration ministry source said every effort is being made to facilitate and protect the Yazidis from possible harm.
“To my knowledge, there hasn’t been an incident in 10 months,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“But there are some people who chafe toward any attempt at integration,” the official said.
“Respecting one’s religious convictions, and using this issue to create sub-groups among the refugee population are two totally different things,” the government official in Athens said.
“Suppose Syrian Christians demand four camps for themselves? It’s not something that can be managed,” he added.
Rooted in Zoroastrianism, the Yazidis adhere to a faith that emerged in Mesopotamia more than 4,000 years ago but that has over time integrated elements of Islam and Christianity.
Of the world’s 1.5 million Yazidis, about 550,000 lived in Iraqi Kurdistan but some 400,000 have been displaced by fighting due to Daesh.
Around 1,500 have been killed and more than 3,000 are believed to remain in captivity, the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN rights office said in an August report.
In areas controlled by Daesh, thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi minority were used as sex slaves and suffered horrific abuse, including rape, abduction, slavery and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
The suffering the Yazidis have endured explains why community elders in Serres have written to the migration ministry to officially request that the camp be assigned to Yazidis alone.
“We ask for our community not to be disturbed and to live here in safety until we depart,” says Hajjdar Hamat, a self-styled spokesman for the Yazidis at the camp.
“Everybody knows about our peoples’ genocide. We did not come from Sinjar to Greece for fun. Europe must protect us,” says Hamat.


Latest sex accusation against Trump lands with a thud

Updated 3 min 29 sec ago
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Latest sex accusation against Trump lands with a thud

  • Carroll, a feature writer and Elle advice columnist, revealed her accusation against Trump in an excerpt to an upcoming book
  • Trump and her allies have responded by casting Carroll aside as an opportunist
Nearly a week after the latest sexual misconduct accusation against President Donald Trump, the story has largely landed with a thud.
Some see the muted response to author E. Jean Carroll’s allegation of Trump assaulting her in a department store dressing room more than two decades ago as yet another example of the divisive Politics of Trump: Those who support him dismiss it as fake news. Those against him see it as confirmation of what they knew all along.
“Essentially, you’re either for him or against him, and if you’re for him, it doesn’t matter what he’s done,” said Larry Sabato, who directs the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “It really is remarkable. He simply is exempt from the rules everyone else must obey.”
It’s a cycle that’s been repeated before. After more than a dozen women came forward during Trump’s 2016 campaign with allegations of sexual misconduct years earlier, Trump called them “liars” who sought to harm his campaign with “100-percent fabricated” stories. When the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged weeks before the election of him bragging about grabbing women by the genitals, he dismissed it as “locker room talk.”
In the case of Carroll, a feature writer and longtime Elle advice columnist, her accusation was revealed in an excerpt to an upcoming book, leading Trump and others to cast her aside as an opportunist. Her book, “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal,” describes what she calls a lifetime of encounters with predatory men, starting with her early years as an Indiana cheerleader and pageant winner.
She said that Trump, in the mid-1990s, followed her into a dressing room after a chance encounter at the high-end New York department store Bergdorf Goodman and proceeded to pull down her tights and sexually assault her. Trump, in denying the account on Monday, said she’s “not my type,” a stunning remark from a US president that briefly breathed life into the story.
But even ranking Democrats such as Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois were resigned to how it would all play out. “I wouldn’t dismiss it,” he told The Washington Post, “but let’s be honest, he’s going to deny it and little is going to come of it.”
Lawyer Debra Katz, who represented Christine Blasey Ford in her Senate testimony on her alleged high school assault by then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, concurred.
“The electorate knew this about him. This is nothing new about his character or his behavior — at this point there have been, what, 13 credible accusers?” Katz said. “People have become inure to it. And it’s disgraceful.”
Carroll, who did not return messages left on her cell phone from The Associated Press this week, stopped short in various television interviews of calling what happened to her rape and described the experience as a “three-minute” ordeal that did not change her life. Carroll has said she doesn’t plan to seek criminal charges and it appears the statute of limitations has run out.
“I’m a mature woman. I can handle it,” she said on MSNBC. “My life has gone on. I’m a happy woman.”
It didn’t help that Carroll’s book excerpt dropped late last Friday and was largely drowned out by events of the week: the refugee crisis at the border, the US brinkmanship with Iran and the regular onslaught of news about the environment, the economy and the 2020 election.
“We are trauma-fatigued by the volume of despairing issues seemingly beyond our personal control,” said Carrie Goldberg, a New York lawyer who represents victims of sexual assault and revenge porn. “When a solution feels beyond grasp, it can be impossible to muster an appropriate emotional reaction.”
Sen. Mazie Hirnono, a Hawaii Democrat, called it a sad day when a rape accusation against the president leaves the country numb.
“With this president you have the Iran situation going on, you have North Korea going on, you have the border crisis going on,” she said. “So after a while you just practically throw up your hands.”